Don't panic: all your travel questions answered about Greece
JD Van Zyl
With words like 'drachmageddon' and 'Grexit' being bandied around (both referring to the prospect of Greece being booted out of the EU and reverting to the drachma as currency), many travellers are left scratching their heads about whether to take that cut-price Greek holiday.
With this in mind we consulted the Greek embassy in London, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) as well as a raft of Greece travel specialists. The general consensus? It is business as usual in Greece this summer, and in many ways the timing has never been better to visit, with many tour operators slashing their prices to tempt travellers with incredible value over the high season.
"Nothing has changed, least of all legendary Greek hospitality, which has embraced millions of visitors over the years, including a record 16.5 million in 2011," the recently appointed Greek minister of culture and tourism, Tatiana Karapanagioti, says in an official statement.
Naxos - a Greek island
But what about riots and civil unrest?
Although civil disorder was a big issue earlier this year it has abated, especially not on the Greek islands where holidaying Britons tend to spend their time most. The FCO warns that if demonstrations were to occur, they normally take place around Syntagma Square in central Athens, and advises travellers to avoid demonstrations and protests altogether.
Strikes are currently very rare and according to the FCO no major strikes are planned. The website is a great source of confirmed industrial action while Athens International Airport provides flight-specific strike information and the official Piraeus Port Authority website supplies ferry-related updates.
For further peace of mind, book your trip through an ATOL tour operator and check that your travel insurance policy includes provision for cancellation and curtailment for strikes (many don't to offer a cheaper premium).
What about the imminent elections?
With the Greek parliamentary elections on 17 June around the corner, international analysts expect this to be a watershed moment in the country's modern history. Especially with regards to Greece's relationship with the euro.
But leaders from the two opposing parties have both vowed to keep the country in the Eurozone, albeit through very different approaches. The online version of the daily Kathimerini newspaper runs continuous updates on the elections.
What if Greece leaves the eurozone?
The so-called "Grexit" and potential upheaval as a result is currently the biggest concern for most travellers. But even in the unlikely event that Greece does separate from the euro and reverts to the Greek drachma, whether forced or voluntarily, that divorce is likely to unfold over several months and as such won't impact travellers much.
According to Christos Stergiou, a Stanford-educated economist-turned-Greek-travel specialist (and the founder and CEO of TrueGreece), neither the Europeans nor the Greeks want Greece to exit the eurozone and "when two parties do not wish for a certain outcome to occur, that outcome is unlikely to happen," he explains. The AthensNews is a good source of local information on the country's financial challenges.
Should I be concerned about a bank run?
The international media have been speculating about an imminent Greek bank run for months, and although it remains very unlikely it cannot be ruled out completely.
Thomas Cook advises travellers to Greece to carry small denomination euro notes (that is, €5, €10 and €20 notes) and to use a prepaid euro debit card, which is widely accepted by retailers.
Do I need to be concerned about earthquakes?
Earthquakes occur around the world all the time. Not surprisingly Greece has also seen its fair share of seismic activity over the years, some of it as recently as this month.
Although the country has experienced some serious earthquakes, most are small tremors barely registering on the Richter scale.
For the full low-down on all recent seismic activity turn to The Institute of Geodynamics at the National Observatory of Athens and for a comprehensive guide on what to do in the unlikely event of a serious earthquake while in Greece use this handy guide.
What about any general tips for my Greek holiday?
Christos Stergiou recommends that as a precaution travellers purchase "cancel for any reason" travel insurance for a small premium and to carry some extra euros with them while in Greece, just to be extra-cautious.
"In fact, I would recommend that for travelling to any country in the world in general," he concludes.
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Strangely enough, you don't have to go to GReece to be ripped off! Just stay put in Britain. And whe criticism is thrown at the greek bailout,,, think again: who bailed out the british bankers? Yes, you gussed it: WE, the already ripped off taxpayers. Worse still, those bankers are getting their massive bonuses even before the pay the money back. Greed and corruption is everywhere, not just in Greece
We have just returned from a 5 day part business part pleasure trip to Mykonos and Athens and can report NO PROBLEMS whatsoever! The flight with Aegean Airlines from Heathrow to Athens left on time with great service and excellent food, connection to Mykonos was ontime and the hotel there was amazing with polite, courteous and friendly staff where nothing was too much trouble.
We stayed 2 days in Athens and although they have their economic worries with the elections this Sunday, everyone from taxi drivers to hotel and restaurant staff were polite and friendly and eager to help where necessary, so IGNORE the biased advice from the cowards at the Foreign Office. Take out insurance before you travel with adequate over and respect the people and the country and you will be fine. The best way to help Greece right now is to go there.
WE ARE GOING TO MAIN LAND GREECE FOR OUR HONEYMOON, AND WE HAVE NO WORRIES ABOUT IT, WE KNOW THAT THE FRIENDS WE HAVE MADE THERE , OVER THE LAST 8-9 YEARS, NEED OUR BUSINESS AND HELP, WE JUST MOAN ABOUT THINGS HERE, INC THE GOVERNMENT, GREECE SHOUTS OUT LOUD!!!!
Have spent 20 years going to greece love the place, with it's the drak or euro, you won't change the warmth and kindness that you get from the greeks, We've got some very good friends over there, yes they have thier concerns with what is happening, most feel they should have stayed with the Drak, But what ever happen's they will always give you a great welcome and you will always want to go back.
Plus you can be sure of one thing Sun shine and heat lovely beech's wonderful food. what more can you ask for, What do you get in UK rain rain rain, give me heat any day, we use to get summer' we don't any more.
Support Greece by going to greece
Whatever happens, happens & nothing wiil stop our family travelling to that fantastic country they call GREECE. There were no problems before the Euro. We are just lining the pockets of the Fat cats. GOOD LUCK whatever the outcome.
Take absolutely no notice of the scaremongering - if not we would all be hard pressed to find somewhere to live or holiday that does not have have it political and/or financial problems at the moment. Greece has sunshine, beautiful scenery, wonderful blue warm seas, friendly people, yummy food and cheap wine - what else do you want for your holiday. Do we refrain from travelling to London because the PM cannot be trusted, the ice cream sellers rip you off, the transport system is not on time and worst of all the weather is atrocious???? Greece is Great!! I live here - so I know!
The Greeks need to be resilient and tell them to stick the euro because it is so blatantly obvious that Germany wants to take over europe through the back door. If Greece owes so much money then surely the creditor takes back what they can? In their case, it will be Greece itself!
The sooner the Europeans realise that the euro is the enemy within, the better! They only have to look at how much doom and gloom it has brought after its initial prosperity and the creation of false economies, Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and others are starting to feel just what the single currency has done. If it was to create equalibrium across the euro zone, then why is it so expensive in some countries? Simple the single currency doesn't work and never will!
Angela Merkel has got europe hoodwinked, the euro is only good for germany because their economy is being boosted by the interest being paid back on the money that it has loaned to baii out the aforementioned countries out!!
SIMPLE MATHS my friends, if you can't pay back your creditor(s) the creditor(s) take the spoils!!!!
Greece is a lovely country, great friendly people,healthy food, beautiful clean sea, politics and problems they face cant put me off my holiday in fact make me more willing to go to the
country to give a bit of help to people of Greece by being there and spend there.
They always treated us very welcome in the past, gave us a great holiday ,are we to forget
it all and turn our back at them?
not me I'm afraid!
I am a greek living in Greece and I am getting ready for today' s swim in the warm clean waters.
I can' t believe that the press abroad is doing this! I even heard people from neighbour countries wishing to travel here, are being told to bring potatoes and toilet paper with them!
This reminds me of the propaganda about terrorist attaks before the Athens Olympics in 2004, so the greeks had to spend tons of money in security systems, the companies made huge profits which the greek citizens ended up paying in taxes and tourism was decreased due to the terror spread!
Anyway I assure you bussiness is running as always, especially on the islands where life is on a slower pace anyway. If you are thinking of choosing Greece for your holidays don't be put off by nonsense. Even if Greece ends up leaving the euro at some point this is not something that will happen overnight. On a final note, if you don' t wish any trouble just make sure you do not participate in any protest demonstration in central Athens and you will be fine.
I wish you all a happy summer anyway!
Years and Years ago, Greek Hospitality was legendary. I fondly remember Poppi & Dimitri, who ran The Sunshine Hotel, at Lardos beach, Rhodos. Dimitri lent me his CAR one evening, to go see some friends who had just arrived, but further down the coast. One headlight (and that was main beam, and you had to hold the stalk to make it work!), no brakes worth mentioning, and an exhaust louder than Lewis Hamilton's! He said, then, "In ten years time I will have a BMW"! That was 25 years ago. Oh, yes, He DID get a 3 series - in ten years.
Fast forward twenty years. The whole world got greedy, including, unfortunately, the Greeks. A young 'Guy' opens a tatty beach bar, charges E.7/8 for a 500 can of beer(!) and reckons on an Audi TT at the end of the season! Bloke tried that one on me, two years ago. I pushed the can back towards him and told him I wanted to buy a beer, NOT his BAR! The welcome is just the same, but they are no longer talking to you, they are talking to your wallet! They try the little 'cons' - you order Meze at the Restaurant (a little bit of everything on the menu, basically) you GET, a PLATE of everything, and a bill for E.100 or more! You protest! "Then katavala" - I don't understand! Everything is 'Speshul', just for you (it's from a tray out of the freezer). Tourists are viewed like Motorists in UK - cash cows, there for milking. And another flight due in tomorrow! It is a great shame, as it used to be heaven on earth - Yesterday! IF the Greeks paid their taxes, stopped the brown enveloppes (cash inside), then they would not be what they have become. Rich people, living in a poor Country. They would be 'fine' and living in a solvent land.
I am Greek and I need to say that you are all welcome to visit Greece. We love to share the beauties of our country and as long as you respect and recognize our hospitality you are welcome to come back anytime.
Cautions should be taken anywhere in the world but, as i have traveled a lot in foreign countries and i can compare, Greece and specially the islands are very safe in general.
Crisis, euro etc is politics and it should mainly concern us Greeks who suffer the most from excessive taxes, reduced salaries and so on.
Just enjoy your holidays and get out of your routine for a few days.